Wednesday, January 27, 2010

How Bright is Dallas Cowboy Stadium?

On November 20, 2009, the Aledo Bearcats took on the Stephenville Yellowjackets for the second time last season. The first time was at Bearcat Stadium where the boys from Aledo pulled out a 20 to 16 win to open the season. The second time was at Dallas Cowboy Stadium in Arlington and it was "loser go home." It was the second round of the 4A state playoffs and Aledo won it in overtime, 26-20. Wow! What a night!

For me it was a treat to get to shoot a football game on the sidelines at Jerry Jones' mega-playland. The new Dallas Cowboy Stadium is every bit as impressive as it looks on television. The GodzillaTron overhead is a technical marvel and getting to see yourself on it is some kind of amazing. I did notice that it was important not to look up at the screen while walking. It's a good way to run into someone else who shouldn't have been walking and looking up.

In this first photo, I tried to give a sense of scale. A wide angle lens and a low shooting angle with cheerleaders in the foreground make it work.

So, just how bright is Dallas Cowboy Stadium?

In the next photo, my aperture was f/5.6, my shutterspeed was 1/640, and my ISO was 3200.

Back at Bearcat Stadium everything would have been the same except the aperture would have been f/2.8. For those of you keeping score, that means that Cowboy stadium is four times brighter than Bearcat stadium. WOW! What does this mean? Well, for me it meant that I could get greater depth of field without sacrificing the ability to stop the action with a fast shutterspeed. For someone with less ISO capability or with a slower lens it means the difference between getting photos of a great Aledo win or getting complete garbage.

By the way, that photo above is Matthew Bishop scoring the winning touchdown in overtime. Right after that shot - bedlam!

Basketball Season

The season is in full swing now and I've already shot a few games for the Ladycats and the Bearcats. My favorite shot so far is of my son (surprise), Aaron. He plays on the Freshman B-team as a guard and is one of the team's leading scorers.

I shoot basketball with my Canon 1D Mark III and a 70-200mm f/2.8L lens. Occasionally I substitute a 24-70mm f/2.8L for wide shots below the goal or a 300mm f/2.8L for a different look from up in the rafters. I use a pair of Alien Bees (800s) located on the top row of the gymnasium that I trigger with a radio control from the hotshoe on my camera. It's a great setup. I use apertures of f/6.3 and f/7.1 with the shutterspeed set to 1/250 and the ISO around 1000. The strength of the flash units and the short duration of the flash event help me ensure the sharpness I want.

One thing about shooting with a flash is that you have to understand and anticipate the action. It's not like football where you can just hold the button down in machine gun mode. You get one chance for a shot and then the flash has to recharge. My Alien Bees are fast but they can't handle the 10 frames per second that the 1DM3 can dish out. Not long ago I got a great shot of a player on the baseline right before he went up for a slamdunk. I hadn't seen this kid play before and I wasn't expecting him to explode to the goal that way. Now, whenever I see him with the ball, I try to hold out for the explosion. Of course, I've already got him on the baseline. I don't need another one of those.

I generally sit along the baseline under the home team goal about halfway in from the corner. This allows me to get good views of the ball as it is advanced across midcourt. The shots I like the most are the wide shots looking up at the players as they approach the opposite side of the goal from my position. I always shoot from as low as possible in order to make the players look taller. Many times I've stood up during a timeout only to discover that my butt was completely asleep, but that's okay. The view from down low is the best one.

I think basketball is my favorite sport to shoot. The action is close and it is fast. Unlike football, you get to see the players eyes and the eyes add a lot of emotion to the photographs.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Few Thoughts to Begin 2010

I guess if you are reading this and you have ever read any of my posts before then you know that I am not very good at this. Good bloggers post their thoughts every day or at least every week. I don't really think that much. That's the problem. And when I do think, it's not really that interesting outside of my own head - plane geometry, constant acceleration equations, differential calculus - stuff like that.

Last year was a very good year. Jill and I are enjoying life and the kids are doing great. We spent four weeks in Idaho as a family last summer and then I spent three more weeks out west - one in the summer with Jill to Yellowstone, another week in Utah with a friend, and a week in the fall in Idaho with another good friend. We stayed home at Christmas but that's what you do when your kids' high school soccer and basketball take over your life.

I've done a lot of photography in the last year. The travel photography out west was my favorite but I did a lot of other shooting too. I followed the successful run of the Aledo Bearcats all the way to the 4A State Championship in football. Along the way I shot on the sidelines at the new Dallas Cowboy Stadium and at Darrell K. Royal Stadium at the University of Texas. I did a lot of portraits in the spring and and I shot volleyball, soccer, baseball, basketball and church in between.

I'll try to be better about posting in 2010. Think of it as a New Year's Resolution guaranteed to be good for at least a couple of posts anyway. I'll be keeping my posts pretty short this year focusing on a few favorite photos and the stories behind them.

Here's the first one:

This is one of my favorite spots in Grand Teton National Park, in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It's the Snake River Overlook and Ansel Adams made it famous back in the 40's in black and white. My version is from June 2009 and was done with multiple exposures. This is an example of High Dyamic Range processing where a range of exposures are combined into one photograph. It's a way of pulling detail out of the shadows without blowing out the highlights. It seems to be more dramatic to me.

The week we spent in Wyoming and Idaho was great but the clouds never quite gave up their hold on the mountaintops. This shot was one of my best from the week. I like the way the clouds pull back to reveal part of the treasure of Grand Teton without completely revealing the tips of the peaks.